The biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) returned this year to London’s ExCel center as the biggest in the exhibition’s 24-year history, welcoming more than 2,800 suppliers and 230-plus new exhibitors. With a theme of “Achieving an Integrated Force,” it highlighted the need to integrate across air, cyber, space, land, sea and electromagnetic activities to build a modern force.
New to this year’s show, which ran from Sept. 12 to 15, was a series of so-called DisTec Trails on the exhibition floor designed to help attendees navigate disruptive technology showcases by international small and midsize vendors. Another new addition was the Future Tech Hub, which let visitors engage with industry leaders and explore cutting-edge solutions.
AI Revolutionizes Warfare
Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days, and DSEI 2023 wasn’t about to be left out. Royal Navy First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key emphasized the U.K. navy’s commitment to becoming an AI-ready organization by integrating AI and autonomous technologies into operations. In fact, efforts have already begun; the service recently deployed a crewless submersible and a crewless fixed-wing aircraft.
AI is likely to “reimagine our approach to warfare, creating dynamic new benchmarks for accuracy, efficiency and lethality,” Key said.
Several GovCon attendees spoke to AI’s importance in data analytics. Hensoldt, for example, unveiled its Ceretron sensor suite for consolidating data streams and processing them through AI to create a single operational visualization. One Stop Systems touted its AI computing solutions, such as custom edge servers, compute accelerators and flash storage arrays.
Services Take Aim at Uncrewed Devices
Drones and other uncrewed devices are an increasingly significant threat. Several companies showed how they’re defending against them.
For instance, BAE Systems shared at DSEI that the company will demonstrate to the U.S. Army in November a new ability to defend against aerial drones by equipping the service’s AMPVs with a 30-millimeter turret.
MARSS, a tech company that delivers solutions across its NiDAR network, has a system that can automatically detect, classify and respond to threats, including those from uncrewed aerial systems and mini submarines. MARSS uses AI in its threat detection to automatically classify threats and alert users, alleviating some of the work human operators face and facilitating decision support.
Currently in research and development, drone interceptors will move out of that phase later this year. Speaking at DSEI, Johannes Pinl, founder and CEO of MARSS, said that they use electric propulsion instead of jet fuel, and can neutralize class 1 drones as far away as 1 kilometer.
Additionally, Pinl announced that MARSS installed its NiDAR C2 counter-unmanned aerial system on the Royal Canadian navy ship Asterix, making the first time it’s been installed on a NATO vessel.
Advanced Protection Systems’ SKYctrl anti-drone system has achieved a 90% success rate against the 10,000 UASs that Ukraine defends against each month, the company said at DSEI. “The system was deployed to the Ukraine in the past 12 to 18 months and we are already looking to develop the system further to provide longer range and better soft-kill options in the face of an exponentially growing threat,” said Arun Arumugam, APS’ sales director.
Not all UASs are bad, though. The British Army displayed its Hydra 400 UAS, which operators can assemble within six minutes to be ready to carry and fire three laser-guided Brimstone missiles, manufactured by MBDA, the U.K. Ministry of Defence’s strategic partner for complex weapon systems.
Meanwhile, Israeli defense contractors showed of drone technology with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities. Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled the Rotem Alpha loitering munition, which comes with an anti-tank warhead based on needs seen in Ukraine.
Israel’s Elbit Systems unveiled the latest model of a drone that the Israel Defense Forces have used since 2008. It also has VTOL capabilities.
“This capability allows for greater ease of operation where the drone can land or be launched from anywhere as it is runway-independent, and landing is usually more precise, which makes it less likely critical payloads or infrastructure are damaged,” said Ziv Avni, vice president of marketing and business development at Elbit. “Its ability to hover in place also makes them ideal for operations requiring precise control and stability such as surveillance.”
Not uncrewed but just as fascinating, BAE Systems displayed a personnel variant of its Amphibious Combat Vehicle, developed for the U.S. Marine Corps. It is designed to hold a driver, commander, gunner and 13 passengers – about the same as a rifle squadron size, said Garrett Lacaillade, vice president of amphibious vehicles at BAE. A unique design component of the vehicle is the mounting of the interior seating and floor to a frame wrapped around the inside of the vehicle and connected to springs, which would absorb most of the energy from an explosion.
With the speed of tech development what it is, we can’t wait to see what shows up at DSEI 2025!